February 10, 2009

Union Prison Collapse - Kansas City, MO

Every time I drive to the Crossroads Art District, I am usually stopped by a red light at Grand and Truman. I don't know why but it happens every time. I noticed a small plaque there commemorating it as a Civil War site. I started reading little bits and pieces every time I was at the light. On August 13, 1868, the Union jail for women collapsed. The three story building called The Longhorn Store and Tavern was being used to hold women were suspected of aiding Confederate troops. Four women were killed in the collapse.

What caused the collapse is controversial. Some claim it was structural flaws. The building had only been standing for seven years but there had been suspicion that the building was in danger before. Allegedly, the shopkeeper moved his wares out of the first floor when he noticed cracks in the ceiling. But he was injured when the building fell so it stands to reason if he knew it was coming down he wouldn't have been standing around inside. Some conspiracy theorists say the Union forces rigged the building to collapse and in doing so murdered the women inside. But mixed in with that accusation is also some anti-Semitism towards the Jewish man who supposedly ran the store front on the first floor. Personally, I find it hard to believe prison guards would intentionally rig a building to fall, killing women and destroying store (which was their liquor supplier) beneath it.

Five days later, Union General Ewing made the situation worse by banishing the families of the guerillas from the state out of fear of retaliation. Enraged over the collapse of the prison, Confederate forces raided the city of Lawrence eight days later. They killed 150 men leaving behind only widows, orphans and a city in ruins.

It is a sad and tragic story to read about, especially on that corner. It is right next to The Sprint Center where all the big name concerts in Kansas City are. It is also right by the entrance to the Power and Light District, where all the hot clubs and bars are. It is a very sad and stark reminder of a disaster over a century ago, just before you go join the parties.

Time Spent: 25 minutes
Distance Traveled: 18 miles
Soundtrack: Tegan and Sara "The Con"

Click here for more photos!